(And the fact that we read about it and say "my goodness, isn't this perverted. She really should put on some knickers. It must be draughty. Let me just buy this magazine so I can be censorious and smug in the comfort of my own home.")
Wait, April 1 was yesterday. Oh well, on with the show.
I begin with some very sad news. The new adaptation of Persuasion, Jane Austen's loveliest book and starring the smouldering goodness that is Rupert Penry-Jones and Anthony Stewart Head, is just *shite*. I mean seriously dreadful. Just when you've decided that the worst thing about it is the hackery of the script, the direction falls apart into a mass of overhead shots, pointless closeups and nausea-inducing handheld camerawork; just when you've decided that the problem is the direction, the acting hits a new twitching low.
It was always going to struggle to emerge from the shadow of the 1995 movie, which may be the best Austen adaptation ever. But it's as though the producers went into a meeting and said to the writer: "how can we make it different from the last adaptation?" And he replied: "I know, I'll add scenes that weren't in the book, move the brilliant Anne Elliot speech to completely the wrong place and make it so the hero CAN'T HEAR IT, ignore any commentary on the importance of class and money or social comedy and generally turn it into half-arsed Barbara Cartland." Producers: "Brilliant. Give that boy a Bafta"
You know you're in trouble from the first scene where Alice Krige, playing Lady Russell, waltzes into the dust-sheeted parlour at Kellynch and delivers the world's most obvious infodump
LADY RUSSELL: "so your impecunious father and sister, who have been spending money like water since the death of your poor, dear mother, are going to Bath and you're going to have to rent out your home to the rich relatives of your rather *foxy* former boyfriend, who has now returned from sea with a fortune, even though I warned you he might not amount to anything?"
ANNE ELLIOT: Yes.
I exaggerate but only slightly.
The performance from ASH was an interesting take on Sir Walter: instead of the dismissive fop of the 1995 version, you get a man furiously protective of his own status and angry at a world where that status is changing and it may be the one part of this production that actually works. Julia Davis was drafted in as a sneery Elizabeth Elliot and tossed a pointless, ill worked-through subplot. The woman who played Mary Musgrove swallowed all her lines and was permanently twitchy, like a masterclass in bad acting. The men in the production, aside from ASH and RPJ, were indistinguishable from each other. The other women weren't much better. Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot started out wetter than an incontinent haddock and never improved. What was with all the stuttery, fluttery, flapping arms BULLSHIT? God knows what Wentworth saw in her.
It's hard to pick out the most gratuitous piece of utter, utter bollocks. Was it the scene where the screenwriter put Wentworth and Harville out in a force 10 gale on the Cobb at Lyme for no apparent bloody reason and made them talk about their FEELINGS?
Was it the bit where the writer, Simon Burke, left out all the stuff about Admiral Croft and Mrs Croft going to sea together, thus making it clear that all women can expect to do is look pretty in skirts? Or where he left out all the funny lines?
Was it the part where Burke shifted Anne Elliot's pivotal speech about constancy of feelings and the differences between men and women away from being a conversation with Harville which is overheard by Wentworth and persuades him to write that heart-stopping letter which is the culmination of all that happens in the book, and makes her give it to Benwick, while no one else is listening?
Or is it the giant trail of wank that is the last 15 minutes where Anne Elliot meets someone or other who *infodumps* the whole of the William Elliot subplot onto Anne like 15-year-old vomits after a pint of cider and black, again for no apparent reason and with no apparent regard for propriety. Then Anne goes off for a 10-minute jog round the streets of Bath looking for Captain Wentworth, much of it shot on handheld camera so shaky that you'd be forgiven for assuming the cameraman was recovering from a fortnight-long bender. Meanwhile Wentworth has just written the aforementioned heart-stopping letter a propos of absolutely fuck all, and is wandering about with a look of anguish that did not so much reflect "half-agony, half-hope" as "buggeration, I'm constipated and my trousers are too tight".
Why would you dismantle a plot that works and replace it with incoherent bollocks? Why would you do that? Why? Why? On the plus side, I quite enjoyed hating it. It was such shite.
1) Lately I have been mostly offline. Three parental visits in four weeks, work going a bit nuts, the fact that the front of my car rusted away and needed new stuff welded onto it in a manner likely to empty my bank account. Also a prevailing sense of meh. I think the word "meh" came into existence because some of us needed it but were too conscious of being pretentious to use the word weltschmerz and too aware that we are no longer seventeen-year-old goths to use the word angst. Still, I don't know why the young should have a monopoly on existential dread or aesthetic lifestyles.
I just can't be arsed with life at the moment
2) Sometimes I lament that I am no longer a part of any fandom. It's a good feeling, being part of that wave of love and enthusiasm. And then this weekend, when the ambient Shrill Stupidity Level hit radioactive orange on three fronts, I decided that outside fandom was a pretty nice place to be. I used to get rather caught up in the febrile convulsions of the Scandal o' the Day whereas now I blink and try to decide whether I want to waste more time trying to work out how to personalise and assign the ringtones on my new phone, rather than debating the racial semiotics of cats*.
(I am switching between Debaser by The Pixies and Mer Du Japon by Air for my ringtones, depending on how I am feeling. And I am not sure there's a song called "Oh God, What Have I Done Wrong Now?", so my mum doesn't yet have a tone assigned to her number)
*Disclaimer: This is not to say there were not valuable and interesting discussions going on. It's just that in any fannish discussion these days you're going to hit the wall of Stupid Self-Righteousness; Me-Too-Style Jumping Up And Down On The Corpse Of The Argument; You Have No Right To Be Offended About This Offensive Thing Because I Didn't Mean Any Offence, You Touchy Bitch and/or The Mean Girls Drive Me Out Of Fandom within two pages of comments
3) Last night, after a long day of trying to think of entertaining things to do on a Sunday in London with my aunt and mum, I watched Doctor Who on BBC3. It gave me a pure hit of joy such that all critical faculties immediately departed the area. I love this show.
I am completely beside myself with happiness that they're going to adapt this for two episodes late on in the series. Firstly because I love the story and secondly because the level of dramatic angst required to provide the motivation to get to the point where this plot would work will make the previous few episodes amazing. Hopefully. With a bit of luck.
And now it's a beautiful day, so I am going to take my mum's advice and go play outside. The garden needs digging and radio documentaries about poisons don't just listen to themselves you know.